Tag Archives: Kristin Scott Thomas

Rebecca-2020

Rebecca-2020

Director Ben Wheatley

Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas

Scott’s Review #1,430

Reviewed June 30, 2024

Grade: A-

Impossible to compare to the legendary 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film, I tried very hard to take the 2020 retelling of Rebecca based on its merits. After all, it’s been eighty years and other attempts have been made mostly forgotten or irrelevant.

Aware of lukewarm reviews by other critics I desperately washed those aside and settled in for a macabre, dark ghostly British thriller.

The film is quite good! Feeling fresh and with a polished cinematic look, I’d describe it as a modern British offering despite being set long ago.

For comparisons, it reminds me of the British television series Downton Abbey (2010-2015) in look and feel. A grandiose estate, dutiful servants, and rank and file of other wealthy and not-so-wealthy characters.

A young newlywed (character nameless) arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives in the house long after her death.

The lead actress, Lily James, who at first I couldn’t recall who she was, is most known for Downton Abbey and the 2023 film The Iron Claw.

The character she plays, the insecure second Mrs. de Winter is confused, and haunted requiring terrific acting. James hits it out of the park on that front.

Emotionally abused by her employer, wickedly played by Ann Dowd, she is instantly heroic and likable so we are happy when she graduates from servant to queen bee.

I cringed at first when I realized that the gorgeous and lovely Kristin Scott Thomas was playing the pivotal role of the villainous Mrs. Danvers. Known for the film The English Patient (1996) where she played the romantic Katharine Clifton, I wasn’t sure she’d be able to go so dark.

Boy, was I wrong? It took me a bit to channel out the dastardly performance by Judith Anderson from the original and accept Scott Thomas. She gets better with each scene and even forces the audience to sympathize with her.

Finally, Armie Hammer is good in the lead role of Maxim de Winter. Handsome, sophisticated, and wealthy, he peculiarly fancies a lady’s maid who inexplicably becomes his wife.

We wonder what he sees in her when his deceased wife ‘Rebecca’ was gorgeous, affluent, and a perfectionist. Rebecca was presumed to have drowned in a terrible boating accident but as events unfold we wonder if there’s more to the story.

If only the characters communicated with each other it would have eliminated confusion. Maxim refuses to talk about Rebecca. If his true feelings were revealed he’d have a different kind of second marriage.

Besides the story and the acting, other trimmings make Rebecca circa 2020 worthy of watching.

The cinematography captures crashing waves and high cliffs that provide a haunting mood. The dining room and kitchen sequences brim with goodness and wonderful meals.

The art direction and set design are overall flawless in the presentation.

The costume party that Mrs. de Winter eagerly plans and hopes will admonish the house of any thoughts of Rebecca go wrong which for viewers is a delight because the scene is already rich.  With help from Danvers a regal red costume is designed and prepared to showcase Mrs. de Winter.

When she confidently descends the staircase the startled crowd gasps with fright at the similarities between her and Rebecca. Maxim angrily dismisses her to change outfits while Danvers smirks in the background.

She’s won round one.

The Danvers/Mrs. de Winter feud is my favorite aspect of Rebecca (both original and 2020 versions) so it’s delightful to see it work so well with Scott Thomas and James.

There is nothing quite so satisfying as watching a film with little expectations but finishing feeling fulfilled and still thinking about it the next morning.

I’ll always watch 1940s Rebecca as a treasured friend but Rebecca (2020) quite capably offers a modern spin with good acting and lavish production values.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen-2011

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen-2011

Director Lasse Hallstrom

Starring Ewing McGregor, Emily Blunt

Scott’s Review #1,152

Reviewed June 15, 2021

Grade: B-

Despite exceptional chemistry between leads Ewing McGregor and Emily Blunt, who were also bankable stars in 2011, the romantic comedy Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (2011) is predictable, dull, and lacks a good identity.

It is the feel-good film of the year and that is not meant as a compliment.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s above par as compared to the usual drivel emerging from one of my least favorite genres, the rom-com, but it should offer more than the by-the-numbers plot it churns out.

Someone either felt lazy or was instructed to create a banal film.

With good actors and fabulous locales, I expected more edge from Swedish director, Lass Hallstrom. But, alas, we get something merely adequate.

Doctor Alfred Jones (McGregor) is a fisheries scientist who one day receives an unusual request from a strong businesswoman named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt). She wants his help in fulfilling a request from a wealthy sheik played by Amr Waked who wants to bring sport fishing to Yemen.

Jones declines at first, but when the British prime minister’s spokeswoman (Kristin Scott Thomas) latches on to the project as a way to improve Middle East relations, he joins in.

Romance blooms as Jones and Harriet work to make the sheik’s dream come true.

If this brief synopsis sounds like it’s taken from a novel that’s because it is and it is as straightforward as you can imagine. The film is based on a 2007 novel which must have been better than the film.

Let’s be fair and clear. McGregor and Blunt are as good as they can be with the material they are given and they succeed in bringing some life to the big screen. The trouble is there isn’t very far to go with their characters. Harriet is a businesswoman with a task at hand. Alfred is a handsome doctor with something she needs. Did I mention he’s a doctor?

Harriet’s romantic interest is hardly a surprise and Hallstrom puts nary any real obstacles in their path towards getting together.

The fact that early in the film Harriet is dating British Special Forces Captain Robert Meyers played by Tom Mison and Alfred is married to a woman named Mary (Rachael Stirling) is laughable after Robert is quickly killed off and Mary is sent away to Geneva for a conference.

Predictably, Alfred and Mary realize their marriage is over.

But wait, there’s more! Robert resurfaces from the dead alive and well. Harriet struggles with her emotions and quickly realizes that her feelings for him have changed leaving her to be with Alfred.

The setup for Harriet and Alfred is as predictable as what peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will taste like.

Poor Kristin Scott Thomas, a fantastic actor is reduced to playing the cliched role of Public Relations Patricia Maxwell. She straightforwardly plays her as aggressive, impatient, and bitchy. The performance doesn’t work well.

Second, to the sweetness of McGregor and Blunt, the locales are thankfully plentiful. Visits to London, Scotland, and Morocco are blessed treats.

A silly subplot of the salmon being removed from British rivers and something about farming goes nowhere and is not worth the effort to go into. Suffice it to say it does little for the film or as a companion to the main plot. The only thing viewers should focus on is Harriet and Alfred’s romantic involvement.

I only recommend Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (2011) for those fans of either McGregor or Blunt or who yearn to escape to a fantasy world with a happily ever after ending.

If one enjoys fishing or fly-fishing (is there a difference?) that may be enough cause to give the film a twirl too.

Otherwise, the film offers nothing that hasn’t been seen countless times before. By the conclusion of the film, I felt weary and bored for so much unchartered potential left on the cutting room floor….or somewhere else.

Gosford Park-2001

Gosford Park-2001

Director Robert Altman

Starring Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe

Top 100 Films #68

Scott’s Review #350

60021796

Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Somewhere between the brilliant PBS series of the 1970s and the ultra-modern cool of Downton Abbey (also PBS) lies the masterpiece that is Robert Altman’s 2001 gem, Gosford Park.

Ironic is that the creator, writer, and executive producer of Downtown Abbey, Julian Fellowes, wrote the screenplay of Gosford Park.

No wonder, combined with Altman’s direction, they created genius.

The period is 1932 and the wealthy, along with their servants, flock to the magnificent estate of Gosford Park, a grand English country home. The guests include both Americans and Brits and everyone is gathered for a shooting weekend- foreshadowing if ever there was.

Following a dinner party, a murder occurs and the remainder of the film follows the subsequent police investigation, and the perspectives of the guests and the servants as a whodunit ensues.

Many of the character’s lives unravel as secrets are exposed.

Sir William, the murder victim, is a powerful industrialist. After he announces he will withdraw an investment, the ramifications affect many of the guests so that the set-up is spelled out for the audience.

At the risk of seemingly nothing more than a plot device- it is so much more than that.

During a pheasant shoot, Sir William receives a minor wound thanks to a stray birdshot- is this intentional or merely an accident? When Sir William meets his fate that evening, the potential suspects pile up.

If there are two compelling aspects to a great film, they are a good old-fashioned whodunit and an enormous cast, all potential suspects.

What makes Gosford Park exceptional is that every character is interesting in some way and all are written well.

Secrets abound for miles in this film and are revealed deliciously. Torrid affairs, sexuality secrets, and blackmail abound as revelations make their way to the surface and Altman knows exactly how to cast doubt or suspicion on many of his characters.

The compelling relationship between American film producer Morris Weissman and his valet, Henry Denton (Ryan Phillipe), along with the domineering head housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren) are my favorite characters and dynamics.

How clever that Maggie Smith would play similar roles as stuffy aristocrats in both Gosford Park and Downton Abbey.

Rich in texture is the balancing between the haves and the have-nots and how those characters mix (sometimes in secret rendezvous!)

Typical of Altman films, the character dialogue commonly overlaps, and the actors largely improvise the script. In addition to being an actor’s dream, this quality gives a dash of realism to his films and Gosford Park is no exception.

Since there are so many characters and so many plots and sub-plots going on at once, my recommendation is to watch the film at least twice to fully comprehend the layers of the goings-on.

Gosford Park (2001) will become more and more appreciated.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Director-Robert Altman, Best Supporting Actress-Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen/Original Screenplay (won), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design